Georgia parents – not public schools – would decide whether to send children to school wearing masks under legislation introduced on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp Monday.

“Parents know how best to care for their children, and that includes when it comes to masking,” Kemp said during a news conference at the state Capitol.

“As we enter the third year of facing COVID-19, it is past time for a return to normal and for decisions regarding protection against the virus to be made by individual Georgians and their families – not the government.”

About 45 school districts in Georgia have one or more schools with mask mandates on students, while mandates have been imposed by 10 or more schools in at least nine school districts.

Under Senate Bill 514, sponsored by Sen. Clint Dixon, one of the governor’s floor leaders in the Senate, no local board of education, superintendent, or public or state charter school personnel could impose any rule requiring students to wear a face mask or covering without an opt-out choice for parents.

Also, students could not be punished for a parent’s decision not to have them wear a mask.

“The ‘Unmask Georgia Students Act’ reaffirms what has always been true — parents are the best decision makers when it comes to the health and education of their children,” said Dixon, R-Buford. “This legislation ensures that those rights are not infringed on by misguided policies.”

This story available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams is the Bureau Chief of Capitol Beat News Service.